Journal Times editorial: Ban open porterage during protests | Editorial

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As we approach the end of 2021, Wisconsin is happy to put some of the chaos of the past two years on the history books.

The Kenosha riots fade into the past, and Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial is thankfully over.

But before we close those books, we might want to look ahead and see how we can change things to prevent or at least decrease the chances of a recurrence of the circumstances that fueled the fires that burned down much of the land. town and led to two deaths.

Yes, there are many aspects to this ongoing debate – from the police response as violence escalates, the presence of so-called militias on the city streets and the belated response to the National Guard’s call. to quell unrest.

Today we’re going to focus on just one element of these sad days: allowing open porterage during public demonstrations and protest marches. Anyone who saw the news photos of armed vigilantes parading down the streets, allegedly to protect businesses – even though their ‘help’ was turned down by Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth – knew we were headed for an accident. train.

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The presence of long guns and handguns carried openly during protests can only fuel tensions and lead to violence. This is a lesson we can learn from Kenosha.

At the same time, if we do not want armed citizens during protests, the government must protect life and property. When protests turn into riots, looting and building fires, the government – law enforcement and the National Guard – must end it quickly and not let it escalate. There is a tendency to set a perimeter around an area and allow chaos to happen. It must stop.

We urge the state legislature and Governor Tony Evers to take a page from Washington State, which last spring banned the carrying of open weapons within 250 feet of permitted public demonstrations and on the land of its state capital.

We would extend such a ban to include impromptu protests as well, and Washington law does this by allowing local government officials to designate a protest as a permitted event. Washington law also provides an exemption for homeowners or tenants, even if the protest takes place within the 250-foot perimeter. The law does not prohibit lawful concealed carrying by authorized persons.

Washington became the ninth state, along with the District of Columbia, to adopt such a ban.

We make no mistake that given our country’s division over disputes over everything from social justice issues to school shootings, abortion, gun control, mask warrants and politics. police, the coming year will not bring more protest marches and demonstrations.

It is protected by our constitutional rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

The vast majority of these protests will be peaceful. A study by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project and Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund found that there were more than 30,000 public protests in the United States in the 18 months between January 2020 and June 2021.

“Among these, at least 560 demonstrations include the presence of an armed individual, other than the police. While armed protests represent a small proportion of the total number of events, the subset is significantly more likely to involve violence or destructive behavior, ”the study said.

“About one in six demonstrations where guns were present included reports of violent or destructive activity. For demonstrations where no guns have been identified, the figure is one in 37. While armed protests represent less than 2% of the total number of protests in the United States, they represent 10% of all protests. violent or destructive, ”the study mentioned. “Armed protests turn violent or destructive about 16% of the time, compared to 3% for unarmed protests.”

This data reinforces our call for a ban on open porterage during protests, marches and peaceful protests. It is even more timely at this time when we have seen dead ends and conflicts between protesters and counter-protesters.

We don’t need a déjà vu about the Kenosha killings. Protests and marches will surely return, but they can be made safer and less inflammatory by banning the carrying of weapons in the open.


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